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COVID-19 – Openreach See Daytime Traffic Jump to 51 PetaBytes

Wednesday, Apr 1st, 2020 (5:03 pm) - Score 7,334

Openreach (BT) has revealed that daily UK daytime (9am to 5pm) data consumption on their national data and broadband network has surged since the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) lockdown began, jumping from 28PB (PetaBytes) on Monday 2nd March to 51PB on Monday 30th March.

Naturally the figures for data traffic across Openreach’s national network (business and consumers) were always going to be eye watering, which is simply because they are the main connectivity supplier for various major links, as well as literally hundreds of fixed line broadband ISPs and mobile network operators.

NOTE: Openreach manages about 5,600 exchanges, 109,000 street cabinets and c.14 million “fibre” connections (FTTC, G.fast and FTTP).

Regular readers will know that we’ve been keeping close tabs on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on UK internet traffic (here and here), which has generally shown a big surge in activity in recent weeks (i.e. particularly once most of the workforce and children were forced to stay at home). Crucially all of this remains well within the tolerance of most network operators and Openreach reiterates that in today’s update.

An Openreach spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

“On Monday, we saw a 51Pb (petabytes) of data through the network between 9am – 5pm, compared to 46Pb last Monday. The peak time during the day continues to be between 2pm and 5pm, while the evening peak is between 8pm and 11pm. Overall, the network is coping very well as we have expected.”

The ability to transfer “51Pb” during a single day of daytime traffic is a significant amount of information to be moving about, although the transfer utilisation itself actually saw its highest individual peak three days earlier for a brief period on Friday 27th March, when it hit “10Pb” in the late afternoon.

openreach march 2020 data traffic

Total Daytime Data Traffic – Previous Weeks

Monday 02.03.20 – 28PB

Monday 09.03.20 – 27PB

Monday 16.03.20 – 31PB

Monday 23.03.20 – 46PB

We should point out that Openreach express “petabytes” as “Pb” above, although it’s normal to use “PB” where “Bytes” (PetaBytes) are concerned as a small “b” usually means “bits” and it’s best not to confuse the two (you usually multiply bits by 8 to get the Bytes figure).

Just to help put some of these big figures into a little context, many modern Smartphones ship with upwards of 128GB to 256GB (GigaBytes) of storage space and bigger computers (Laptops etc.) often come with 1TB+ (TeraByte). So the data scale goes a little like this..

1000 MegaBytes = 1 GigaByte

1000 GigaBytes = 1 TeraByte

1000 TeraBytes = 1 PetaByte

NOTE: When expressing this as a transfer speed it would be more common to use “bits” rather than “Bytes“. So you could, for example, roughly convert a broadband speed of 8Mbps (Megabits per second) to 1MBps (MegaBytes per second).. you get the idea.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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22 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Spurple says:

    I think you need to reassure us that this has nothing to do with April 1, 2020.


  2. Avatar photo Phil says:

    I expect the reason for the increase is mostly just down to all the journalists running speed tests constantly to find a reduction in peak speeds so they can headline next day with “UK Broadband struggling”

    1. Avatar photo Rian says:

      A lot of love for this comment

  3. Avatar photo Carlos says:

    “(you usually multiply bits by 8 to get the Bytes figure)”

    whoops! As you point out later in the article, it’s the other way round?

  4. Avatar photo 125us says:

    Instantaneous usage is pretty much always measured in bits.

  5. Avatar photo IP says:

    Where are OR pulling the stats from? Any idea on the monitoring point?

    1. Avatar photo CarlT says:

      Their OLTs/Layer 2 switches. Every single bit of data flowing through all their fibre cabinets and fibre to the premises customers has to go through the 2-3,000 of those.

  6. Avatar photo Dee says:

    So what are the effects of the radiation or gamma waves omitted by the boxes If their having to cater fir such a surge.

    1. Avatar photo Thomas Lawlor says:

      As long as you keep an onion in your shoe and always wear an asbestos hat, the radiation won’t affect you.

    2. Avatar photo CarlT says:

      This has to be parody.

  7. Avatar photo Archie says:

    What is their maximum capacity? Be interesting to find out.

    1. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      You could argue that such a thing is on an ever increasing scale and thus difficult to pin down. Even if you were to look at the theoretical peak across all their lines, especially each fibre strand, then that would still be shifted upwards by future upgrades to the kit at either end.

    2. Avatar photo Archie says:

      @mark Thanks for the answer. I understand. However, even an approximate or range could be used. Surely the upgrades that are taking place aren’t adding masses of capacity every day? Surely you could have a snapshot on a day, week or month?

      Essentially, even at 51’Tb’ they’re nowhere near their maximum capacity at this time, or are they?

  8. Avatar photo Jennifer Pelling says:

    So, like me, you only normally have .08Mbps you have no chance whatsoever!!

    1. Avatar photo Gary says:

      Have you looked at 4G ? If that speed you’re getting is off old cappy adsl like mine was.

  9. Avatar photo Name says:

    People started using for what they are paying for?

  10. Avatar photo Stephen Charles Woodward says:

    Well done By for keeping us all going.

  11. Avatar photo Stephen Charles Woodward says:

    Well done BT for keeping us all going.

  12. Avatar photo CarlT says:

    I guess that graph is PB per hour.

    Really weird choice of measurement, though. I fully expect their kit to hit 20+ Tb/s at peak times and I’m not sure why they are shy about using those measurements. They are the standard and it’s not like PB/hour can’t be converted into an approximation or sound more impressive.

    1. Avatar photo CarlT says:

      Indeed. When they hit 10 PB in an hour the network averaged very approximately 22.2 Tb/s combined upload and download for that hour.

    2. Avatar photo Mark says:

      The unit is ok. Think of an analogy- the total distance travelled in all road journeys is much more meaningful than adding up all the individual vehicle speeds…

  13. Avatar photo McNugget365 says:

    Possible error in the article, although it’s late at night so I might just be being thick.

    “you usually multiply bits by 8 to get the Bytes figure”

    Should be divide, not multiply.

    Anyway…58 PB that’s a lot of data! Thanks for the article, very interesting.

Comments are closed

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